What does being charismatic mean to you?
That ‘x’ factor that some people have, they’re instantly attractive, and able to exert influence, to be persuasive. You can make the greatest logical argument in the world and, if you’re not charismatic, you’re not likely to convince anyone.
So what can you do to be charismatic?
For the answer to that, we can go all the way back to Aristotle. I’m a failed actor so I was fortunate enough to be handed his ‘Poetics’ in first year uni/college (it’s the masterwork on storytelling and performance).
Aristotle taught us that the 3 things a speaker needs to be persuasive are:
- logos (logical argument);
- pathos (emotional connection); and
- ethos (credibility).
If you’re a technology entrepreneur, chances are you’re pretty good at the logos part. It has nothing to do with charisma anyway, so I’m going to focus on the parts that do: pathos and ethos.
Pathos makes you charismatic. It is charisma that you generate by creating an emotional connection with your audience. Ethos also makes you charismatic. It is charisma bestowed upon you by your audience. Pathos + Ethos = Charisma2.
I’m going to use a VC meeting to illustrate the 2 easy steps to charisma.
Let’s get the scariest one out of the way first: pathos. Even if you’re a robot, you have no emotion, that’s cool. You can still make an emotional connection with people in one easy step: be vulnerable. There is scientific evidence that shows the single most important action you need to take to connect with another human being is to be vulnerable (video of world’s expert on that very subject giving a TED talk: Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability).
Okay, I hear you say, now how the hell do I be vulnerable?
I’m not telling you to collapse in a river of tears at your next VC meeting; that would probably be a really bad idea (and you’re a robot, right, so you can’t cry anyway). What you can do is reveal something about yourself, a failure, perhaps the first 20 attempts you made at solving that massive problem you’ve now solved. That’s actually a 3-for-1. You reveal that you’re human (you make a connection), you also tell a story of your perseverance (great for your ethos – see below) AND the VC understands just how difficult the problem is that you’ve just solved (great lead in to the secret sauce slide).
Got it? Good, that’s step 1. Let’s move onto step 2: ethos.
Ethos, or credibility, is about your character. It’s the reason why VCs will invest in a proven entrepreneur despite a bad business idea. People with ethos have charisma bestowed upon them. People trust pretty much anything they have to say because of who they are.
Okay, great, so you don’t know any VCs who think you’re so awesome that they’re willing to throw $40 million at you. You could spend a bunch of time building your online cred (ethos) but your opportunity is now. So, you need to create some ethos now and here’s an old trick you can use called the rule of threes. Writers know that repeating the same content three times really makes it stick in people’s minds.
To continue with the example of the VC meeting, there are always three clear opportunities to create ethos. The first occurs before the meeting, when you send through your exec summary. This document should always highlight your key achievements. The second opportunity occurs at the start of the meeting. When you introduce yourself, tell a story that reinforces the most relevant of your key achievements. The third opportunity to create ethos happens at the team slide. You guessed it: you get to reiterate your key achievements. Put the same key achievements on the slide that you have in your exec summary and highlight the key achievement from the story you told by stating it, out loud, clearly and succinctly. In my last company, I used to put the team slide up front because the former CEO of Coke Europe and Asia was my Chair. Instant ethos.
I’m not going to tell you that this is an instant substitute for having steered a company to a successful IPO but I guarantee that it will be at least a +1 boost to your ethos and therefore your charisma.
To be charismatic, it really is as simple as:
- Creating pathos; and
- Creating ethos.
If you want to learn more about being charismatic, or pitching and speaking in general, I’m developing a workshop that I’ll be delivering both in person and via webinar. Drop me a note to register your interest.